When Truth and Fiction Intersect

June 16, 2016 1:54 pm Published by 3 Comments

Miyoko Saiki_8Jun16

In my career writing fiction, I’ve emphasized scientific thrillers. Although I always say that the science in my story is sound, and the details of the physical locations have been researched extensively, my tale is entirely fiction. Not so for my latest novel, How Much Do You Love Me?

For this historical novel that revolves around the Japanese Interment of World War II, I’m proud to say that, except for my fictional characters and their fictional story, 99% of what happens to the characters in my book actually happened to real people. Because much has been written about the Bellevue, Washington, Japanese community that was torn apart by the internment, I set my fictional family within that community. Many from that community were sent to the Pinedale Assembly Center and then on to the Tule Lake Relocation Center, both in California. I decided that my characters would follow that path.

With this in mind, you can imagine my delight last month when I opened a hand-written letter from someone who had followed that same route. And she, Miyoko Saiki, lives near me, here on the Monterey Peninsula! Here is her letter:


May 22, 2016

 Dear Mr. Tag,

 I just finished reading your novel about the evacuation of the Japanese in 1943. I was also born in Bellevue and went to Pinedale and Tule Lake as you wrote. I was 14 at the time— it brought back many memories.

 I went to school in Tule Lake and graduated in Heart Mountain, Wyoming, after the segregation. I left camp and went to Cleveland to find work and stayed there from 1944 to 1952. I met my husband George who was born in Monterey. We came here for a vacation and moved back.

 I don’t know how you learned so much about what we went through. It was a terrible experience. Pinedale was over 100 degrees. When we left Bellevue it must have been in the 50’s. In Tule Lake we went to school typing class with no typewriters. Our Spanish class teacher would not let me speak English in the room—so we spoke Japanese!

 The author then goes on to ask me how she could get an additional copy of the book. She concludes: Thank you, Miyo Saiki


 The “segregation” that Miyo refers to in her letter occurred after the infamous “Yes/Yes, No/No” question that had been asked of all internees as part of the “Loyalty Questionnaire.” Those who responded no/no were considered to be potential troublemakers and sent to Tule Lake. Those who responded yes/yes were given the opportunity to move to another of the ten camps. Miyo moved to Heart Mountain, Wyoming. The characters in my book moved to Minidoka, Idaho.

Upon receiving Miyo’s (Miyo is short for Miyoko) letter, I telephoned her immediately. I met her at her house and, later, we had lunch together with my wife, Becky. The photo above was taken at the lunch.

Miyo is a delightful, interesting, and pleasant person to be around and converse with. Because she was already fourteen at the time, Miyo has clear memories of her internment experience. To my surprise, she is a DEVOTED San Francisco Giants baseball fan. We agreed that another visit might be in order sometime.

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This post was written by paulmarktag


  • Mary D Conrad says:

    Arigoto kosimas, for your introduction to Miyo. And Miyo, Hajimay Mashitay.
    “How Much Do You Love Me” was the first of your novels that I read. And, Miyo, I am so sorry that yiu had to experience so much horror in your life.
    Kindest regards, Mary, in San Jose

  • Leslie says:

    Wonderful story!

  • Karen Spettel says:

    Hi Paul,
    I purchased “How Much Do You Love Me” from you at Barnes Nobel Almaden Expressway in San Jose, CA early Dec. 2015. The following week I brought my copy of the book to show my volunteer colleague/friend, Gayl. Gayl was born at Heart Mt. 1945. I told her how much I was enjoying the story, how much I was learning, etc. She then looked at her husband and requested the book for her Christmas gift. While Gayl was reading the book, we would have discussions about the “twists and turns” of the story. Gayl also shared information she had learned from her mother along with her family’s life stories while living at 2 different encampment locations. Like Gayl, her mom immediately took interest in the book, so later Gayl passed her copy on to her mom, who in turn has shared it with her friends, one of which is Miyoko “Miyo” Saiko. It’s a Small World after all…! Thank you for your caring and sharing your heartfelt stories with us!

    God bless and many Happy Trails to you… Karen (San Jose, CA)